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Community-based action in Fiji’s Gau Island: a model for the Pacific?

Elise Remling (School of Natural Science, Technology and Environmental Studies, Södertörn University, Huddinge, Sweden)
Joeli Veitayaki (School of Marine Studies, University of the South Pacific (USP), Suva, Fiji)

International Journal of Climate Change Strategies and Management

ISSN: 1756-8692

Article publication date: 16 May 2016

Abstract

Purpose

Drawing on qualitative fieldwork on a remote outer island in Fiji, this paper aims to address a shortcoming in the literature on climate adaptation in the Pacific. Internationally community-based adaptation (CBA) is recognised as a promising approach to help vulnerable populations adjust to climate change. However, with pilot projects in their infancy documented experience for Pacific Islands remains scarce. This limits the ability of the region – faced with persisting development challenges and predicted significant climate impacts – to learn from and build on previous experiences and develop robust responses to climate change.

Design/methodology/approach

By using a community-based initiative in response to environmental challenges and unsustainable development as a proxy, the paper interrogates the potential usefulness of the CBA framework for the Pacific and identifies potential strengths and weaknesses. Sketching out the process and its outcomes, it shows how the initiative has resulted in a diversity of strategies, ranging from pollution control measures, to improved governance of resources and community participation in decision making, to livelihood and income diversification.

Findings

Findings indicate that CBA could have a lot of potential for building more resilient communities in the face of climate change and other pressures associated with modernising Pacific societies. However, to be effective, interventions should pay attention to people’s development aspirations; immediate economic, social and environmental benefits; dynamics of village governance, social rules and protocols; and traditional forms of knowledge that can inform sustainable solutions.

Originality/value

The conclusions provide a reflection on the CBA framework in general and make concrete suggestions for practitioners on how the framework could be usefully implemented in the Pacific context.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors are grateful for constructive input by Aaron Atteridge to an early version of this paper and two anonymous referees for their thoughtful comments. Grateful thanks also to Thomas Weinzierl for his valuable assistance in developing the map of Gau Island.

Citation

Remling, E. and Veitayaki, J. (2016), "Community-based action in Fiji’s Gau Island: a model for the Pacific?", International Journal of Climate Change Strategies and Management, Vol. 8 No. 3, pp. 375-398. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJCCSM-07-2015-0101

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited